What is Executive Interim?
Executive interim is bringing in a highly qualified executive to manage an organization during a period of crisis or transition. It is a staffing strategy that began in the Netherlands in the early 80s in response to stringent labour legislation that made it costly to hire and terminate permanent employees. The concept has since been adopted throughout Europe as a strategy for bridging short-term management needs, and is becoming increasingly popular in North America as a growing number of near-retirement executives with a wealth of experience are being used by companies keen to grow while keeping their overheads low.
What is the Typical Profile of an Interim Executive?
Track Record: The most successful interim executives demonstrate a strong track record of delivering results in their career that shows progression through roles of increasing responsibility. They also demonstrate focus – concentrated expertise, progression and success in a particular functional discipline and/or industry, or in closely related specialties. They typically have 20+ years of experience and are leaders in their field. Successful interims are confident in their accomplishments and can both sell their achievements to their clients and deliver the results on each assignment.
Flexibility and Adaptability: The best interim executives are comfortable operating in highly uncertain circumstances, and strong in developing relationships and learning quickly. There are many uncertainties in the life of an interim executive: not knowing when or where the next assignment is coming from; not knowing the client environment thoroughly yet still being expected to make a significant contribution; and not having a network of peers on the job with whom to share challenges and brainstorm solutions. Good interims are physically and mentally fit enough to start a new project every eight months, and can roll with the punches, not being fazed by uncertainty and ambiguity, reading between the lines and being as comfortable rolling up your sleeves as operating in the boardroom are all required to be a successful interim executive. This extends to coping with often quick recruitment processes, being prepared to travel or work away and potentially flexing your day rate, and therefore your earnings, in line with market demands. Though the benefits can be significant – in terms of stimulating assignments, work satisfaction and reward – interim executives need to cope with a level of uncertainty and change, not only on assignments but often in their personal circumstances as well.
Effective Communication Skills: The ability to deliver clear messages to a wide variety of audiences is an essential skill, particularly when it comes to challenging existing attitudes and systems. An interim executive needs to handle challenging leadership situations with a combination of sensitivity and gravitas so they can integrate themselves into organizations and quickly engage a workforce. They interview well – which is important because the interview process to select an interim is often shorter than for permanent roles.
Continuous Improvement Mindset: Do you find yourself continually questioning how things could be better? Are you not happy with the status quo, even if the status quo is proving positive? Do you always want to go one step further, come up with new ideas and innovate to achieve better results? Then you possess one of the most important attributes of an interim executive.
Improvement and change are major aspects of interim assignments, so individuals who question ingrained behaviours, attitudes and ways of working, who have the skills to assess quickly what's going on in a totally new environment – to analyze, develop solutions – and who strive for continuous improvement – will have a much greater chance of success. This ambition for improvement, however, needs to be balanced with the ability to positively influence and motivate people to change.
Outcomes Focused: Interim executives are focused on delivering results with lasting benefits and are paid on the understanding that goals and objectives will be achieved. Because of your knowledge and experience, you will often be asked to input into other initiatives and the danger is that you may experience "mission creep" or end up attending every meeting that would be expected of a permanent employee. To be a successful interim executive you'll need to learn to block out the noise and focus on the outcomes that you've committed to achieving in order to guarantee the success of your assignment.
Strategic Thinking, but Executionally Savvy: As a permanent executive, you would have been required to engage in strategic thinking, looking at the organization as a whole and considering the best approach to achieve the greatest long-term benefits. Execution of this strategy may have then been passed down to front line managers.
With executive interim, however, the importance of strategic thinking is amplified by the need to apply these skills quickly to a range of situations and see to it that they get implemented. You have to apply calculated change against a backdrop of varying and unique challenges. Interim executives need to apply these skills across a variety of industries and business settings too; those who can think in this way and deliver by rolling up the sleeves are generally the most sought after.
How do Interim Assignments Work?
Through our network we are keenly aware of interim opportunities in a variety of industries and functions. Once we have secured an interim assignment, we undertake a rigorous process to match an interim executive with our client. We issue a contract for all interim executive positions direct to the interim candidate and issue another contract to the client, thereby making you an independent interim executive brokered out by Odgers Interim. Invoicing is done through us, using standard templates indicating the number of days you work in a calendar month at the end of that month, and we pay you directly in the agreed way.
We are entirely transparent about our margins. Whilst on assignment we will keep in touch with you, visit you on site and both our consultant and their administrator will be on hand to answer any problems or queries.
Do I need to Incorporate?
No. A simple HST/GST/QST number is all that is required in Canada.
However, most Odgers Interim executives operate as limited companies, effectively setting up their own interim business. Not only is this best practice, it facilitates, we believe, an important shift in mindset from the temporary worker or sole practitioner.
We would also suggest that you review the independent guidance offered by the Interim Management Association.
Odgers Interim provides interim executives in most disciplines across a wide spectrum of organizations in both the private and public sector. Our clients know that we will only put forward candidates who have the right skills and experience and who transact business in a professional manner.
How long do interim assignments last?
Interim assignments average 8 months in duration, but we have completed interim assignments that last up to 2 years and as little as is needed by the client.
How should I start?
If you are interested in executive interim as a career path, research the landscape and familiarize yourself with how other interim executives market themselves. Identify the specific things you can do for a company, the kinds of situations you can handle. It’s important to be clear about where you think your skills are transferable. What you can do is more important to us than who you are.
Compose your resume with executive interim opportunities as a target. This is not a time to try and hide your age, embrace it. The value that you bring to the table is the depth and diversity of experience you have to offer. Showcase your successes with situational management, where you have had to roll things out under duress. Highlight exceptional accomplishments as opposed to day to day management. As you build a portfolio of interim engagements you can add this experience to your marketing material as a list of interim assignments completed.
Finally register with us as an interim executive.
“When you come in as an interim leader, it’s a different mindset. You know you’re going to have to get in the trenches and deliver results immediately”